How to Write an Online Obituary

Colorful stories for modern lives

The Virtual Memorial

“As long as humankind exists and we haven’t suffered through some massive collapse of civilization (e.g. zombie apocalypse), then b-emortal.com will be active,” b-emortal assured would-be customers. As it turns out, the final judgment on b-emortal was rendered with considerably less drama. This postmortem messaging service, bootstrapped by a $15,000 indiegogo campaign, generated some media buzz but never got off the ground. In fact, this spreadsheet of 90 similar services shows that perhaps 1/4 have likewise flatlined.

It may seem as if there’s just no money to be made in digital memorialization. But as this Slate story explains, there’s plenty to be made on the front end—that is, just after someone dies. Interest fades quickly among extended family and friends, but loved ones remain eager to give him or her a digital immortality, of sorts. That’s where the virtual memorial comes in.

What’s a Virtual Memorial?

Virtual memorials, also called “digital memorials,” are online obituaries intended to honor the deceased, mourn their loss, preserve their memory, interact with those who knew them, and introduce them to those who didn’t. These digital tributes usually include a text obituary and multiple photos, plus mementos, video, and music or other audio. Virtual memorials are often prepared well after death and tend to be longer than online obituaries. Unlike many print obituaries, virtual memorials are put together not by mortuary or newspaper staff using a depressing template, but by family members or close friends, or by obituees themselves in preparation for their own respective deaths. 

Media for a virtual memorial

 

What’s the difference between an online obituary and a virtual memorial?

Any remaining distinction between online obituaries and virtual memorials is quickly fading, though, as even the simplest online obituaries continue to integrate more multimedia features and options. Nearly all online obituary sites now offer—at the very least—social media sharing, a guest book, and optional video uploads. Click the tabs below for more about the elements that make up a digital memorial.

App, Website, Social Media: One Memorial Three Ways
The Officer Down Memorial Page is sponsored by a not-for-profit organization dedicated to honoring fallen law enforcement officers throughout the United States.  You can access its content through a mobile app, a website, or  Facebook. Let’s compare them to see how a memorial might differ depending on the platform. If you like, download the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP) app to your mobile device. Then compare it to odmp.org and facebook.com/OfficerDown:
Officer Down app screen

App

The app has a simple, appealing interface with a list of recently fallen officers, trends in line-of-duty deaths (LODDs), nearby LODDs, and a list of fallen K9s, among other items.

Website

The ODMP website contains much more content than the app, including news, event announcements, information for potential donors, and a link to the ODMP online store.
Officer Down Facebook page

Facebook

The ODMP Facebook page is all about getting involved and connecting with others for grief support, legislative action, and fundraising. For example, you can register to run a virtual 5K for National Police Week. Runners receive a shirt and race bib, and can participate from 1,000 miles away.